Security operatives have killed over 13,000 extra-judicially in the country from 2011 to 2021, a period of 10 years, a new report by a pro-democracy group, the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), has said.
The group, in its report obtained by PREMIUM TIMES on Monday, stated this as part of a series of rights violations it catalogued in its report titled, ‘Nigeria Human rights Record: An assessment of the last two decades’.
It traced the history of rights violations to Nigeria’s military regimes, saying, “Nigerians were subjected to sixteen years of oppressive military rule marked by scores of human rights violations.”
The report examined human rights conditions in Nigeria since 1999 and compared them to the constitutional guarantees and international human rights standards.
Its review is based on four key indicators — unlawful detention, torture and extrajudicial killings, freedom of assembly, and freedom of expression and the press.
“The Nigerian military not only governed with brute force but also institutionalised human rights violations into the Nigerian legal system through decrees,” the report said.
Torture and extrajudicial killings
The report noted that “unlawful killings have become a common place in the country since 1999, with many of these killings perpetrated by security forces.”
“Successive governments in Nigeria have used unlawful killings to quell secessionist upheavals and terrorist activities.
“It is pertinent to state that extrajudicial killings conducted by state actors has become the primary cause of death in the country. In fact, state actors have cumulatively killed 13, 241 people since 2011.”
It described human rights violations in the forms of unlawful detention and disregard for court orders as pervasive in Nigeria.
It noted that issues of unlawful detention and disregard for court orders by security agencies remained widespread, blighting Nigeria’s human rights.
“The menace of unlawful detention has rather become perversive such that it has required the intervention of ECOWAS special court in some cases.”
Citing the case of Sambo Dasuki, the report said the Nigerian government “disregarded several court orders, including one issued by the ECOWAS special court, for the release of the former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki, on the 4th of October 2016.”
“Compounding the effects of illegal detention is the horrible detention situation in Nigeria that further exacerbates human rights violations.
“Overcrowding in Nigerian prisons has increased by more than 1000 percent in the last decade.”
The report indicated that “torture has become ensconced in Nigerian law enforcement as a means of punishment as well as information gathering.”
It referenced the defunct Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), a rogue unit of the Nigerian police, “renowned for the use of inhumane torture tactics both as an information gathering techniques and punishment.”
“Between January 2017 and May 2020, Amnesty International reported 82 cases of SARS brutality, including hanging, waterboarding, and mock executions.
“During the COVID-19 lockdown there were 105 human rights breaches complaints filed with the Nigeria Human Rights Commission, 33 of which were in regards to torture. In 90% of the cases the Nigerian Police Force was accused on being the violator.”
Freedom of assembly
The report highligted instances where peaceful protesters “were greeted with brute force by security operatives”.
It alluded to the quelling of the #EndSARS protests last year, “where 48 persons suffered various forms of rights violations including death.”
“Governments have frequently invoked the pretext of ‘preventing terrorist actions’ to justify disrupting peaceful protests and social movements. By doing so, the government has severely restricted Nigerians’ rights to assemble and demonstrate, in violation of the Constitution’s provisions.
“Peaceful protests are regularly met with violent attacks by security personnel or even are prevented from protesting in the first place.
“The excessive use of force in reaction to largely peaceful protests – – most recently visible during the #ENDSars protests – has created a frightening climate that discourages or limits the right to assemble.”
“Undaunted, Nigerians protested on Democracy Day in June 2021 but were once again met with the deployment of security forces spraying tear gas and firing live bullets into the air to disperse what they referred to as ‘anti-government’ protests.”
Attacks on press
Similarly, journalists have had their own share of egregious violations by security agents, the report said.
“The media has faced censorship, harassment, arbitrary arrests, and even assassination attempts against journalists.
“Nigeria was named one of the world’s worst countries in the world in 2013 for deadly, unpunished violence against the press.
“A reality that has not improved in recent years, and if anything appears to be on the decline given the increased threats to civil liberties, the limits placed on religious activities and the continued harassment and detention of journalists.
“Under the current administration, journalists have faced threats and arrests for attending rallies, criticising public figures, exposing government corruption and refusing to disclose sources to security authorities. The June 2021 suspension of access to Twitter in the country was just another example of the way space for dissent is being closed down in Nigeria.”
In addressing the issues around rights violations, the report reminded the government of its core responsibility of protecting lives.
It urged civil society organisations to “contribute to the training of security professionals in the conduct of ethical civil military operations. They should also continue to advocate for victims of human rights breaches and assist them in obtaining remedy.”
“Media houses should give priority to investigative journalism that focuses on human rights issues to bring the abuses to the attention of more Nigerians.
“The media can assist in holding the government accountable and can become involved in educating the public about their rights and avenues for redress.”
The report advised Nigerians to actively participate in politics, by engaging “local leaders and elected officials outside of election periods to sustain these demands.”
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